In surprise appearance, Isa says wife’s ready to give money trail

Tribune

ISLAMABAD: To everyone’s astonishment, Justice Qazi Faez Isa appeared on Wednesday before the full-court hearing a slew of petitions against a presidential reference seeking his removal as he conveyed his wife’s message that she is ready to explain to the court how she bought her foreign properties.

The PTI led federal government moved the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against Justice Isa in May 2019 claiming that the judge had committed misconducted by not disclosing in his wealth statement his family members properties in the United Kingdom.

The SJC – the constitutional body that can hold a superior court judge accountable –issued show cause notices to Justice Isa, who later challenged the reference and SJC proceedings in the apex court.

On Wednesday Justice Isa made a surprise appearance when the government counsel Dr Farogh Naseem was telling the bench that he met Prime Minister Imran on Tuesday to discuss the bench’s proposal to referring the matter to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for initiating tax proceedings.

When Justice Isa walked into the courtroom and came to the rostrum, the bench – headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial – allowed him to speak. Addressing the judges, Justice Isa said he is not fighting for his own sake but for all judges.

He referred to a verse of the Quran versus which says persecution is worse than death. He also complained about alleged media campaign against him after filing of the reference and said the SJC also did not hear him.

He urged the SC to initiate contempt proceedings against former attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan who was forced to hand in his resignation after he accused some members of the full court of knowing the contents of Justice Isa’s petition before it was filed.

Justice Yahya Afridi, a member of the bench, noted that it was not an appropriate way to appear before the bench as the federal government counsel was arguing the case.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial said they have highest respect for the judge but he could convey his submissions through his counsel Muneer A Malik otherwise he – Justice Isa – could get emotional.

Justice Isa said he is messenger of his wife who said she is willing to explain how she purchased three properties in the United Kingdom to the full court through video link as she cannot come in the SC due to illness of her father who is a cancer patient.

He said his wife does not want to appear before the FBR – the top tax authority – because she had been ridiculed in the past. He also referred to Dr Farogh Naseem’s statement that the FBR officials were scared to proceed against the judge and his family members.

“It’s a very noble way as we will consider her offer,” said Justice Bandial.

Dr Farogh Naseem also welcomed Justice Isa’s wife offer to disclose the source of income through which she purchased the properties. He said he had no personal grudge against Justice Isa and his family.

The bench will pass an order on her oral request today (Thursday).

Commenting on Justice’s Isa’s appearance, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Syed Qalbi Hassan said there is nothing objectionable in Justice’s Isa’s coming to the courtroom.

The SCBA chief also referred to example of former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry who addressed bars when the apex court was hearing his petition against a presidential reference filed by Musharraf in 2007.

Earlier Naseem also told the bench that the PM has agreed to the bench’s proposal but on some conditions. He said the matter will be decided by an FBR commissioner within two months. The petitioner judge and his wife will be asked to cooperate with the FBR.

Justice Isa’s attorney Muneer A Malik said the judge had faced a smear campaign for the last 13 months. He said the judge sought judgment on merit as he didn’t want to sit in a bench with a perception that he and his wife were tax evaders. In view of Malik’s statement, the bench will give a ruling on merit.

Earlier, Justice Bandial noted that judges are accountable in financial matters. “We are accountable in private and public life,” he added.

When Dr Farogh Naseem said the court quashed the reference against former CJ Iftikhar on ground of mala fide as the then government had called the SJC members on special planes to initiate misconduct proceedings, Justice Maqbool Baqar said mala fide facts are more serious in Justice Isa case.

He also said unfettered power cannot be given to executive to file reference without solid material.

“This country has a history of subversion of constitution by the executive. All institutions including the judiciary have been trampled. We don’t want to live in wrong side of history.

“Neither we are against any individual nor any institution. We will not hesitate to give our sacrifice for the supremacy of law and independence of judiciary,” he added.

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